Newton Police roll out body-worn cameras

Newton Police Department Watch Guard body cameras. (photo courtesy Newton Police Department)

NEWTON, Kan. (KSNW) — The Newton Police Department announced tuesday that all patrol officers and supervisors are now outfitted with body-worn cameras.

The City was awarded $34,335 in Justice Assistance Grant funds from the Kansas Governor’s Grants Program to purchase 25 WatchGuard Vista HD cameras and two Ethernet transfer stations, plus associated software.

Police Chief Eric Murphy said the project will enhance transparency for the department.

“We were among the first departments in the state to use in-car video cameras,” Murphy said, “and we’ve seen the benefits of that in terms of evidence and added safety. Body-worn cameras were the next logical step for us.”

The body camera integrates with the department’s existing in-car video system and replaces the in-car body microphone with a video/audio recorder. The recordings on both the body camera and the in-car camera sync into one recording using the existing evidence management library.

The department’s policy calls for officers to record “all contacts with citizens in the performance of official duties,” while using discretion in locations where individuals have a reasonable expectation of privacy, such as restrooms.

The effective use of video monitoring has the potential to improve police-community relations, promote transparency, and reduce citizen complaints regarding use of force, harassment and racial bias. It also can make the criminal justice system more effective by increasing conviction rates by providing dependable, consistent evidence, according to a Newton Police Department press release.

“In today’s world, judges and juries expect that 21st Century technology will be available to document events,” Murphy said. “Hopefully, body cameras will provide another level of accountability and contribute to more positive interaction with the public.”